HOW I SLOW STITCH
A Practical Guide
by Mark Lipinski
If you’re feeling creatively bare, mojo melancholy, and inspirationally barren, you need to find an antidote – and fast! For creative types like us, being in a visionary funky-dunk can feel lethal and lead to burn out, over eating, compulsive shopping, a mild depression, a messy house, anxiety, crankiness and more. Boosting your creativity, pumping up your brain power, and finding your creative self again is key to kick starting and maintaining our healthy and balanced lives.
Of course, there are those of you who might still be regularly creating, knitting or cross stitching like a bat out of hell, but maybe not with the same excitement you once brought to the creative table. If all of your stitching and projects are stating to look-alike or feel a little boring to construct, you can use some help, too. Call the Doctor. Dr. Slow, that is!
Over the past several months, the guest bloggers, podcast interviewees, and I have talked about our creative process and just some of the benefits we have manifested from our slow stitching (I’m working on how I can use slow stitching to lose weight and, believe it or not, that’s working, too – more on that later, and the good news is I won’t have to write that blog while sitting on two chairs).
For most of us, the process of our physical movements, actions, and thoughts while working on our stitching projects is often, if not always, overlooked and that’s a shame. Being conscious of what we’re doing and exactly how we’re doing it can enhance our creativity and improve our lives, to boot! And who couldn’t use a little of that?
We know that there are many benefits to actually slowing down your stitching process by beginning to pay attention to what, and how, we’re stitching or knitting, needlepointing, weaving, etc. Purposeful and focused immersion while stitching or craft making is like a fascinating elixir that benefits us in physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual ways. It gives us a brand new way of looking at our work and how we approach the world in general. Learning a slow stitching technique helps us deliver all of the many benefits that our stitching can offer us besides a just a finished project, benefits that aren’t even considered in our consume, rush, finish, unconscious world.
Most of us start out really wanting to reap those stitching benefits of better health, deeper spiritual or meditative thought, increased creativity, a boost in brainpower, improved relationships, and more, but don’t have the first idea of how to begin. I had that problem, too.
First things first …
When I talk about intentional, slow stitching, all I’m talking about really is just taking the time to pay attention to what you’re doing, in a very deliberate, intentional, and focused way.
For instance, when I sit down to slow stitch at my sewing machine, or prepare to embroider, needlepoint, etc., I literally take several deep breaths, get my bearings, and acknowledge my surroundings. Next I take a look at the tools and supplies I’ll be using, the best tools and fibers I can afford, and make a mental note that these things didn’t just appear magically from thin air, but were created and delivered by people from other places all around the world. I make a conscious note that I am fortunate to be able to afford such luxuries, when many people are struggling just to find clean water. It’s an attitude of gratitude.
Sometimes I might close my eyes (as I recently asked the participants in my quilting class to do. I wanted them to be able to feel and experience the fabrics they were sewing with. I wanted them to understand, without looking, the weave of the fabrics, the different amounts of sizing that prepared their fabrics, the hand of their textiles, and the stretch or lack thereof, of the cottons they chose to work with.)
Taking the time to be aware of our surroundings, tools, fibers and such, no matter what we’re stitching, not only makes for a better stitching experience but slows down our process for some thinking and integrating creativity into our lives rather than just jumping in without any thought at all.
I find that my entire stitching experience began to change once I was able to acknowledge that (without smirking or rolling my eyes – because I did that, at first) what I was working on, and the tools and fabrics I was using to work with, were a part of a global connection and not just me sewing together some cotton or embroidering some floss onto random linen.
Okay, this may sound a little Airy-Fairy but try to stay with me, here. The acknowledgement of all of this allowed me to then focus on what I was stitching in a more focused, and even grateful way. Trust me, I’m the least likely person to engage in any of this mumbo-jumbo, but it works.
It’s individual . . .
There are as many different ways and approaches to slow stitching as there are people reading this blog, and probably even hundreds more than that. With a little practice, some patience, along with the physical focused and intentional activity of stitching, you will find your own individual slow stitching groove, a technique or method that will work best for you.
For me, I use my slow stitching as a cognitive distractor. That means I literally use my stitching to distract me from everything else that’s going on in my life. For instance, if my son wrecked his car, I had an argument with a buddy, and I can’t seem to find the money to buy a new something or another that I need, I use my slow stitching as an escape – literally only thinking about what I am stitching, how I’m stitching it, and not allowing my mind to wander onto anything else. No stinkin’ thinkin’ allowed. Physically engaging in that kind of slow and repetitive stitching gives my brain and emotions a little 20-or-so-minute vacation everyday, and ultimately that space allows me to relax and regroup so that I can allow greater creativity and emotional, physical, and/or spiritual peace to enter my noggin and being. At any point in my day, I can pick up my stitching, practice my slow techniques, and instantly be relaxed, away from life’s little moments of chaos, almost in an instant.
A few ways that I slow stitch . . .
I use a couple of different techniques when I slow stitch. One of those ways I call my ‘focused slow stitching.’ That means while I am consciously stitching on my projects, I allow my thoughts to only go and acknowledge my physical stitching process. When I focus stitch, I only focus on my machine’s needle or hum, the fabric running through the feed dogs, the rotary cutter on fabric, the rhythm of my knitting needles, or the physical pace of my cross stitch or embroidery, what my yarn or fabric literally feels like. I focus only on what I’m physically stitching at the moment and all of the physical sensations. If thoughts come to mind like, “I’m going to kill that kid if he forgot to pay his car insurance premium,” (and know that other thoughts will come to mind – and a lot of them) I push it aside immediately and get back to focusing only on my stitching, process, and physical feelings and sensations of the process I’m engaged in.
That’s not, however, the only way I slow stitch.
If I find myself creatively bone dry, or in a position where I might have an idea but I don’t know how to approach it, then I like a more unrestrictive kind of slow stitching. I call it my ‘open minded slow stitching.’ All that means is that while I am paying close and focused attention to my physical stitching and my project at hand, just as if it’s the only movement in the world at the time, I am also allowing thoughts about whatever I’m in a creative quandary about, and only those thoughts that relate to the issue or question, to mentally dance in and out of my mind while I’m still physically concentrating on my stitching.
For instance, I’ll ask myself, “Should I start a new pattern business?“ Then, I’ll start to stitch – intentionally stitch, fierce and focused. Next, I’ll allow myself to think of my question and answer it, allowing only thoughts relating to that question, while I stitch.
Here’s an example of what my thought process might be in my open kind of slow stitching. “Starting a new pattern business will take time. I need to devote two hours a day to it. That time will take me away from my family or house chores. Who will make dinner? I wonder what my husband wants for dinner? I think there are pork chops in the freezer…” STOP! Stop the conversation. We don’t care what your husband wants for dinner at that moment, do we? Gently and quickly focus your attention back to your creative process and question. Start again.
Every time I get an intruding thought, I stop it in it’s tracks, and refocus. Honestly, there are times I might have to stop and refocus 4 or 5 times a minute or more, depending on the kind of day I’m having.
It all takes practice. We are creative and creative people having a nonlinear way of thinking. For us, linking “should I start a new pattern business?” and “I think there are pork chops in the freezer,” makes perfect sense, but it doesn’t help you creatively and it intrudes on your slow stitching process and its additional benefits.
Give it a chance . . .
For me, practicing either of these kinds of slow stitching techniques, just twenty minutes, or so, a day allows my creative life to begin to change and expand. Add to that the daily writing of my morning process pages, and snapping a few pics that inspire me each day, and I am often surprising myself with a new-found creativity and way of looking at the world. It can happen for you, too.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I want to let you in on something. Those 20 minutes of slow, intentional, physical stitching a day, and focused or open thinking during your stitching was torturous for me when I began. I had never done anything like that before. I hated it. I didn’t see the point. I wanted immediate results and that wasn’t happening. And I couldn’t get through 3-minutes without thinking about hot chocolate or even the torment of cleaning my office (which often times felt preferable).
Slow stitching is a practice. But in this case, practice does not make perfect. The good news is we’re not looking for perfection through our slow stitching. Slow stitching and it’s benefits are a part of continual and regular imperfect practice. There is no end result. No perfect way to slow stitch. No end result. The key to getting he most out of your stitching is making your daily process a habit. Schedule a daily regular block of time for your routine slow stitching. Simple.
Practicing this form of slow stitching tends to distract me from everything I would normally be preoccupied with while I crocheted or stitched and it allows me to take advantage of the new creative thoughts and ideas that start just coming to me. It allows me to get out of my way to allow those new thoughts in. Focused slow stitching now puts me in a state of mind that is fertile for creative imagination.
“Taking the time to be aware of our surroundings, tools, fibers and such, no matter what we’re stitching, not only makes for a better stitching experience but slows down our process for some thinking and integrating rather than just jumping in without any thought at all but the end result.”
The more you put into it the more you’ll get out of it . . .
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that The Slow Stitching Movement isn’t just about our projects, what we imagine, or what we complete. Slow Stitching is a lifestyle. That lifestyle encompasses many day-to-day activities, as well, but let’s face it, it’s pretty easy to shop locally and ethically to support our stitching and creative work where we live. It’s a piece of cake to organize and discuss our creativity with a slow stitching salon for greater creative awareness and fun. Weeding out our stash is a pain in the butt, but it’s mindless, it doesn’t ask much of us, and uncluttered drawers and rooms frees our creative space in our physical space and in our heads. Doing a bit of research on the stitchers and history of our kind of stitching in our community is almost a snap and connects us to other like-minded souls. The stitching part, the physical process and act of slow stitching, my dears, can be bit tougher than all of the other stuff put together. Not only do we have to focus on what we are stitching, we have to learn to let go of control, frustration, blame, self-deprecation, etc., that often comes up during our stitching at the same time we’re trying to stitch!
Some of you will be better than others with the physicality of your slow stitching concentration and may see creative benefits right away. Others of you (like me) will always have to work at it, but the creative, physical, and emotional benefits come to us, anyway.
None of us will ‘master’ the physical act of slow stitching. There isn’t anything to master. Just stay conscious, present, and in the moment while you stitch, that’s it. I know that it sounds easier than it is. Don’t beat yourself up if you struggle. We all struggle with deep concentration, purposeful thought, and action.
The goal is to engage with some physical, intentional slow stitching every day. Make it a habit. The more regularly you show up to slow stitch, the easier the process will become. You will connect with your daily slow stitching faster, and tap into your creative ‘zone’ almost effortlessly as you regularly practice the slow stitching process. Again, there is no such thing as perfection or perfecting the process of slow stitching. Like life, slow stitching is a process. You can’t get an ‘A’ in slow stitching any more than you can get an ‘A’ in life. Do your best, try out different ways that work for you, and keep at it.
I’m happy to answer any and all of your questions about Slow Stitching. Just leave your question in the comment area of the blog and I’ll respond, or you can write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org! mark